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Man convicted in Zachary Sowers case faces gun charge

A man who pleaded guilty in connection with the fatal beating of financial analyst Zachary Sowers in Southeast Baltimore has been indicted on a federal gun charge.

Arthur Jeter, 24, was among three teens who pleaded guilty to robbery and agreed to testify against a fourth man in the attack in exchange for lesser sentences. Jeter was sentenced to eight years, and was released on good-behavior credits after serving about five years.

At the time, the case led to a backlash against then-State's Attorney Patricia A. Jessamy, which her successor, Gregg L. Bernstein, invoked Friday by saying the punishment was not enough.

"Arthur Jeter had no business being free to walk on our streets following his involvement in a murder less than seven years ago," Bernstein said. "It is the responsibility of prosecutors to fight for just outcomes for victims, and we are relentless and strategic in our pursuit of justice for all of Baltimore."

Prosecutors in the Sowers case said Jeter was in a car with one of the other defendants at the time of the beating and did not see the attack take place. Jessamy has defended the way the case was handled by saying the lead suspect received life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.

Nicholas Panteleakis, Jeter's attorney, said federal prosecutors have a weak case against Jeter on the gun charge, using an expletive to describe the quality of the evidence.

"The only reason that it's going federal is because they can't win it in the city," where juries are more skeptical of police, he said.

Last Oct. 23, authorities found Jeter in possession of a Gabilondo Llama .380-caliber handgun, which he was barred from having because he has a felony conviction on his record, according to the charging papers.

In documents from the arrest filed in state court last fall, police wrote that they saw Jeter smoking what they believed to be marijuana, then saw him run to a car and throw a sweatshirt inside. A black handgun fell out of the sweatshirt as he tossed it into the back of the car, officers said.

State corrections officials said Jeter was released from prison in the Sowers case in June 2012. Generally, offenders convicted of violent crimes will serve about 60 percent of their sentence, while those convicted of nonviolent offenses will serve less than half.

Jeter was denied parole by the Maryland Parole Commission, according to corrections spokesman Mark Vernarelli, but was released on mandatory supervision, the result of credits that accumulate for good behavior. Such a release program requires an offender to report to a supervision agent until the conclusion of his original sentence length.

The federal gun charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and the federal system does not have parole. A lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jeter was one of four teenagers accused in the 2007 beating of Sowers, which left the 28-year-old in a coma. He died in 2008.

At the time, the viciousness of the attack shocked Sowers' Patterson Park neighborhood, and memories of the beating surfaced again this year as residents of Southeast Baltimore faced renewed worries about violent crime.

On the back of testimony by Jeter and two others, a Baltimore jury convicted Trayvon Ramos of attempted first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended.

Sowers' widow, Anna Cheng, criticized the sentences as too light; Sowers died after the convictions had been secured, and after prosecutors agreed not to seek murder charges were Sowers to pass away. Cheng could not be reached for comment Friday.

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